I've had the privilege of serving on a number of mission trips in multiple countries. I've been with many teams in many places. While I don't consider myself the foremost expert on short-term mission trips, I have learned a few things over the years and experienced the good, the bad and the ugly on such trips. This week there was no bad, only a little bit of ugly (think Bob Donaldson dancing); and a whole lot of good! Here's just a few examples...
* No rain (which is no small thing in Panama where you're basically in a huge city cut out of the jungle).
* No drama (except for our exceptional puppeteers: Grace Hohn, Denae Howard, Missy Howard and Dennis Coselmon).
* No injuries (except for a pinched finger in a ladder, but Kevin Johnson probably deserved it anyway!).
* Lots of laughter (the team laughed themselves silly - if you haven't heard Karen Donaldson laughing at her goofy husband, you're missing out on one of God's greatest blessings!).
* Loads of hugs (we worked at 2 churches, visited 3 other churches, and observed 3 Child Development Centers, all on the Panama Central District. Everywhere we went hugs were exchanged. The church in Panama is filled with a friendly, passionate bunch of people! God really is bringing Flint Central and Panama Central together - creating something awesome out of the two!)
* Much accomplished (our work projects went really well. A great deal of work was completed at both the Puerto Caimito and San Jose churches. Each team member served with great energy and diligence. Folks like Sue Peel, and Ron Arnott are like Energizer Bunnies - they never stopped working!).
* Friendships formed (one of the great benefits of serving on one of Central's GO TEAMS is that you have the chance to meet new people. Central Church is full of great folks, like Dave and Bethany Caldwell. Participating on a trip is an awesome way to connect with other Central attendees).
While all of these things are great, more than anything, our team was overwhelmed by God's presence and blessing. He is alive and active here in Panama - and His Church is responding. Your Nazarene brothers and sisters are passionate about sharing their faith. You get the sense that they really do believe that Jesus is the hope of the world and that everyone they know needs to know Him! They are living and giving sacrificially; though they have little, what they do have they give to the Lord for His purposes. Our Panamanian friends are committed to caring for needs of those around them. Compassion isn't an event that they do once in a while, for them it is a day in and day out lifestyle. They are free and open in their worship. They are passionately committed to Jesus. Christ is not an "add on" to their life. Their church isn't just some place they swing by a couple times a month. They are deeply rooted in Him and are actively serving the Church.
My dear Flint Central friends (and all my other friends too!), we have much to learn from the church in Panama. Oh how I long for our church and our people to be known as those who passionately share their faith, who give sacrificially (I mean really give!), who seek to care for the needs of others, who live out compassion, who freely worship and are sold out to Christ and His Church.
We all have a thing or two to learn - it's a good thing we have trips scheduled for January, April and August of 2016! Please prayerfully consider joining one of our next GO TEAMS! Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!